On hot, sunny days East London steams and swelters and somehow seems even more urban and industrial than usual. Weird and wonderful characters slip out of disused factories and reclaimed lofts and fill the streets with their skinny jeans and cans of Red Stripe. It's a something of a shock when I remind myself that the building I'm approaching, a Victorian warehouse conversion, is not the scene for an illegal rave or a pop-up art gallery, but a Conran hotel and restaurant! Terence Conran, the creator of the glamorous West End destination restaurants of the late 1980s and early 1990s has moved east and gone urban. Where before there was the sparkly glamour of Quaglino's or the bourgeois, French-accented decadence of Bibendum and Pont de la Tour, now lies exposed brickwork and a roof terrace looking out over Shoreditch's mottled vista - Conran the arch modernist, top marks for innovation.
The Boundary opened in late 2008 and is actually the first major project from Conran with one of his protégés, Peter Prescott. The format is slick, startlingly modern and moves with the Zeitgeist. The rooftop bar and restaurant is just a stone's throw from Soho House's East London rooftop, but at Boundary, there is an intimacy and sense of calm that is lost on Shoreditch House's vast, sprawling roof. There are thick woollen blankets, carefully chosen wines and even a cigar list; as ever, the devil is in the detail.
The top two floors of the Boundary are home to twelve individually designed hotel rooms and five suites, perfect for those nights when getting home seems like too much of an effort. The rooms take on theme such as Bauhaus and Corbusier and feature one-off pieces of Conran furniture, Apple TV and fantastic views over the city.
To move down to the basement and into the fine dining restaurant is to leave steamy Shoreditch behind and enter a world where food is art and French cuisine is king. The dining room is, in my mind, reminiscent of the aforementioned St. James's grand dining room, Quaglino's. There is a sense of glamour and occasion; it's comfortable, but it's certainly a destination restaurant. The food isn't experimental, it is subtle and classic - dishes that we all know and love, but prepared using high-quality ingredients, by people with a formal training. Our dishes include superb, home-made charcuterie, Maldon rock oysters and firm-textured, expertly cooked John Dory. At the weekend there is an excellent prix fixe lunch, which is actually a rare thing in this area of London. The wine list is a joy, one of the most approachable lists in London and certainly the best in Shoreditch. It is fairly comprehensive in its scope, but centres on classic Old World regions - Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne are all very well represented. A light, floral Mosel Riesling slices through the fatty charcuterie excellently, just as a very fresh Bourgogne Blanc from Morey Blanc. Service is warm and assured - this is exactly the kind of place to spend a lazy Sunday.
The Boundary is a rare thing: a place that fully embraces modern, contemporary culture, whilst providing an authentic experience that would mean nothing without sensitivity to the past.